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Bookstore Basketball to benefit Jamaican youth

Molly Madden | Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The annual Bookstore Basketball tournament is more than a popular activity for students; it also works to help the less fortunate.

Established in 1995, the Jumpball Basketball Program is run through the Notre Dame Club of Jamaica that raises money to help the youth of Kingston, Jamaica. A considerable portion of the team registration fees for Bookstore Basketball goes towards the Jumpball Program.

“What makes Jumpball unique is the ability to impact children’s lives and help make Jamaica a better community through one person at a time,” said Chad Sutcliffe, the director of the Jumpball program and a 1995 Notre Dame graduate.

Sutcliffe was one of the initiators of the influential program that organizes basketball clinics for the kids living in Kingston. It is an effort to help keep the disadvantaged youth from the drugs and violence that is extensive in their neighborhoods.

“With the high poverty rate, we felt that by running a free clinic during the summer we could have a positive impact,” Sutcliffe said. “We are trying to teach the children life skills through the sport of basketball.”

Using the money that is raised through Bookstore Basketball and from donations, Jumpball organizes a week of free basketball clinics for the inner-city youth. In addition to providing basketball training, it also awards the children based on their ability, attitude and sportsmanship, and provides them with a T-shirt and a free lunch.

“There are a number of kids that end up coming to Jumpball simply because it is a free event and lunch is provided,” Sutcliffe said. “These are some of the kids we hope to influence the most as they do not normally have this kind of opportunity.”

Sutcliffe said that before Jumpball came to Kingston in 1995, there were little activities for the children of the city to participate in.

“There was a tremendous interest in basketball from all around the city. With this, the poverty level and the lack of activities for children, we really felt like we were filling a need,” he said.

Looking at the level of participation, it appears Jumpball has filled this need since the program’s inception in 1995.

“Jumpball has grown gradually from 75 participants to over 600 today,” Sutcliffe said. “We believe we have had a huge impact on many of the children. They are offered a free opportunity to be part of a highly organized event where they are exposed to a high quality of coaching and teaching.”

Sutcliffe says that the program also focuses on the Jamaican coaches that participate. Members of Jumpball have determined ways in which the program can help these adults as well.

“We provide training for the coaches specifically in terms of running and operating a Jumpball clinic but also as part of a nationally recognized training program which can assist them in obtaining jobs as teachers or coaches,” he said. “Finally, this coming year we are offering two scholarships to our volunteer coaches to assist them financially in attending a secondary school.”

Involving members of the Kingston community has made the youth participants able to see the impact of Jumpball as a whole.

“The kids are able to see not only the U.S. volunteers but also the Jamaican coaches giving back to the community,” Sutcliffe said. “In many cases the volunteers are former campers that have grown up through Jumpball. There is a high level of enthusiasm that is contagious.”

To date, Jumpball has raised around $20,000 for the Kingston community.

Sutcliffe says that none of it would have been possible without the continuous support from the University and the proceeds from the Bookstore Basketball tournament.

“In recent years due to the help of Bookstore we have been able to expand the program. Some of this growth is directly attributable to Bookstore’s donations. Without a doubt, Bookstore Basketball has had a tremendous impact on the number of boys and girls that Jumpball is able to reach each year.”